Vikings Will Miss Winfield's Presence

Antoine Winfield's all-around defensive presence will be missed sorely, as the cornerback is expected to miss at least one game, probably more.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday's 24-14 loss at Chicago and isn't expected to play Sunday when the Vikings return home to play Seattle. He might not be able to start and make a significant contribution until the Dec. 24 game against the Packers.

"The injuries are starting to become a headache," coach Mike Tice said. "That just makes it harder. It doesn't make it impossible."

Winfield leads the team in tackles (94) and interceptions (three) and is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. The drop-off between him and the players behind him is significant, as evidenced by how well Bears surfer/quarterback Chad Hutchinson dissected the Vikings on third downs after Winfield left the game near the end of the first quarter. Hutchinson hadn't started a game in two seasons, and the Bears had the league's worst offense and third-down conversion percentage.

"Antoine is one of the leading tacklers on the defense," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "He cuts down half the field sometimes. So he is definitely a big presence, and we missed him out there."

Terrance Shaw, who took over Winfield's role in the base defense, played well. The problem came when Derek Ross had to play Shaw's role as the extra defensive back in the nickel defense.

On the Bears' two-minute drill at the end of the first half, Ross gave up a 31-yard completion to Bobby Wade and a 15-yard touchdown pass to David Terrell. Both plays came on third downs. The Vikings eventually benched Ross in favor of Ralph Brown.

The Vikings considered releasing Ross and promoting practice squad player Rhett Nelson. But Tice decided Monday to give Ross a second chance as the nickel back.

The Vikings believe Ross wasn't ready to play against the Bears because he didn't practice as the nickel back during the week. They think the week of practice will help him focus.

Even if it does, the Vikings will be much weaker defensively without Winfield.

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